I am a veteran at opening the Signal Bay Waterpark; in fact, this summer marks my 6th summer of opening and managing Signal Bay Waterpark. Each spring, I learn something new and different while preparing Signal Bay Waterpark for the upcoming season. As any pool owner already knows, there is a lot of work involved in getting a pool ready for the season. In addition, just when I think that I know all that there is to know to prepare the waterpark, I am humbled to find that I was wrong.
Luckily, I enjoy learning new things! Over the past 6 years, I have learned how to lay tile, caulk deck joints, repair plaster pops, and prime the filter pumps. However, that only represents a small amount of the skills I never thought I would need to know. I recently had a conversation with one of my Head Guards about what all goes into getting Signal Bay Waterpark ready. He noticed I was wearing an old, stained, really beat up pair of sweat pants. I have worn these sweat pants while preparing Signal Bay Waterpark for the past 6 years! The sweat pants have the chlorine, caulk, and paint stains to prove it. A lot goes into preparing the waterpark for a safe season so I thought it would be neat to share some of the unique things that you may not know are necessary for the job.
I briefly mentioned my old stained up sweat pants. What I failed to mention is that these pants have been permanently renamed, “My Waterpark Pants”. If you see me walking around the Community Center in them, it is safe to assume that either I was just at the waterpark, or I am heading there. They are the ugliest sweat pants, but oh, they are comfortable. They are baggy enough that if they get wet they do not stick to my legs. They have pockets to carry tools, tape, and Chapstick. In addition to “My Water Park Pants”, I am also sure to wear an old t-shirt, a hat, and sunglasses. There is more. My waterpark wardrobe also includes a good sturdy pair of old stained shoes with holes. In any given day while working at the water park, I can easily walk over 6 miles (per my Garmin), so shoes are important. I learned in my first year, that I should not wear my newest, nicest running shoes. Therefore, I save my old running shoes and turn them into waterpark shoes. If they did not have holes to begin with, they will after a few days! Moreover, for the record, I prefer the holes… think WATER SHOES without having to buy them!
Hands with tough skin
I am not a girly girl when it comes to having soft hands and painted nails. I cannot remember the last time I painted my nails; but this time of year, in particular, calls for “man hands”. I have calluses on my hands and dirt under my finger nails. It is inevitable. Every year I end up with multiple blisters and lacerations on my hands. I should probably invest in some work gloves, but in all honesty, they would end up wet, which would wreck more havoc on my hands.
I need buckets of sunscreen to keep from getting nasty sunburns while working outside for hours and hours. The white reflective surface of a swimming pool bounces the sun’s rays all over the place, which leads to some unique tan lines. I have learned to wear t-shirts in lieu of tank tops, to protect my shoulders, but I lather any exposed body part with lots of sunscreen. Inevitably, I get a good burn at least once while setting up Signal Bay Waterpark.
I recently had my 5-year skin cancer check with a dermatologist. As luck would have it, I put on expired sunscreen the day before the appointment, and as a result, I had a sunburn. My dermatologist pointed out the importance of putting on GOOD sunscreen, but thankfully, she found no skin cancer! I threw out the old sunscreen and purchased new, quality sunscreen.
A few years ago, I received a small, pink tool kit for Christmas. Those dainty pink tools just do not cut it! I have moved on to BIG, DIRTY, HEAVY tools. We are talking the types of wrenches that are heavy to hold-even with both hands. Yet somehow, I have to squeeze under a giant filter tank, and use the wrench with one arm extended to tighten bolts. Talk about an arm workout! Coupled with the 6 miles I walk at the waterpark in one day, and the hopping in and out of the lazy river, I really don’t need to go to the gym this time of year!
Any crack in the concrete surrounding the pool areas needs to be sealed. If left unsealed, water will get down in there and start to disintegrate the concrete underneath. Two years ago when we renovated the waterpark, we incurred a huge expense while repairing the entire beam damaged caused by water that had seeped into the concrete structure. As preventative maintenance, twice a year I search for cracks, and then seal them.
My arms get a workout just rolling the brown paint on the faux rocks surrounding the lazy river. Not only does the fresh paint shine, it also protects the concrete by sealing any small cracks. It is a very messy job, but it is also very important both cosmetically and structurally. In addition to painting the brown rocks, I try to repaint the blue pads every year. The special epoxy paint that we use helps to prevent cracks from forming in the pads, but it also gives them a bright, uniform look.
A Water Meter and Fire Hose
It is the quickest way to fill the Lazy River with water. We hook it all up to the nearest fire hydrant and start filling. Unbelievably, it still takes over 12 hours! If we used the good old-fashioned garden hose, it would take over a week!
Which brings me to my eighth and final unique thing needed to get the waterpark ready…
Nothing comes quickly or easily. From the hours involved in filling the pools, to the countless trips up and down the pump room stairs while I prime the pump (AKA get all the air out of the system), to the miles of brown rock that must be caulked and painted, I am pretty much guaranteed that if something CAN go wrong, it WILL go wrong!
It is mentally and physically exhausting and frustrating, so trying to stay patient is tough. In all honesty, when we have completed our annual preparations and the Signal Bay Waterpark opens on Memorial Day weekend, all the frustration will be worth it.
Sarah Barnett is the Operations / Aquatics Supervisor for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at S.Barnett@ManassasParkVA.gov.